HE WAS a key player for Scotland at the Rugby World Cup, now back-row forward John Hardie has set his sights on helping Edinburgh keep their impressive start to the season going after he joined the club yesterday on a two-year deal.
With the Glasgow Warriors squad already packed with internationalists, Scottish Rugby chief executive Mark Dodson and others within the governing body have been trying hard to secure big-name signings for the capital club.
In the summer No 8 Nasi Manu arrived from New Zealand and has made a flying start to life in Scotland and the thought of openside flanker Hardie, who was so impressive for Scotland during the World Cup, lining up alongside him in the coming months will have Edinburgh supporters excited.
It will also be news to the ears of the general Scottish rugby public, some of whom were pretty sceptical about Hardie’s inclusion in the Scotland squad.
However, after significant performances against Japan, Samoa and in the last-gasp quarter-final defeat by Australia on Sunday, most are now keen to see him be part of Vern Cotter’s squad for years to come.
The capture of the 27-year-old New Zealand-born player should get a few more supporters through the door at BT Murrayfield for the next home match against Munster on 7 November while his presence on the field should help Edinburgh sustain their good Guinness Pro12 form.
Indeed, when Hardie and David Denton come into the Edinburgh squad next month – both are likely to be given a couple of weeks off following their World Cup efforts – it will give head coach Alan Solomons a few headaches of a positive nature in the back-row.
In Hardie’s preferred No 7
jersey Roddy Grant and Hamish Watson, the latter who was named man of the match against Ulster last Friday, have been in cracking form while Mike Coman is the captain and Manu and Cornell Du Preez have impressed as the team have won four from four.
Hardie helped the Highlanders lift the Super Rugby title before the summer and given his all-action performances at the World Cup he would have had a few English and French clubs sniffing around him while he was officially “unattached”.
As a result being able to tie him down to playing in Scotland is a massive boost – and he is looking forward to it.
“It’ll take a few days to get over the World Cup and then refocus, but I have a new journey with Edinburgh to concentrate on now,” he told the club’s official website. “For the team to have gone four from four so far in the league is unreal and I am looking forward to getting involved and joining the group.
“I have kept an eye on what has been going on at Edinburgh while I have been away at the World Cup and I have managed to watch a couple of the games.
“I have heard that the supporters here are a really passionate bunch and that the club has a very proud history. I know that everyone looks forward to the tough match-ups with Glasgow and the other matches in the Pro12.
“All of the loose forwards have been outstanding so far this season – Hamish Watson, Roddy Grant, Cornell Du Preez, Nasi Manu and others – so it will be tough to get into the team, certainly a challenge.
“For now I think the plan is for me to have a little break and then really hit the ground running with the Edinburgh guys.”
Hardie – who was parachuted into the Scotland squad during the summer, qualifying through a grandmother from Fife – played with Edinburgh men Phil Burleigh and Manu back in New Zealand and there is no reason to believe he will not settle in quickly.
Manu certainly rates him and recently said: “He is a physical player, but he can carry the ball as well and his breakdown work is pretty special also.
“It is hard to compare John to other players in the Northern Hemisphere for me, but I grew up with him, we played age group rugby together and I obviously rate him highly.”
Edinburgh have a congested fixture list coming up and Solomons said: “We are very happy to welcome John to Edinburgh Rugby. He is a quality player who will add real value to our squad.”
Scott Johnson, Scottish Rugby’s director of rugby, added: “John has proved himself to be an excellent professional and his performances during the Rugby World Cup consolidated our belief that we would like him continuing his rugby in Scotland.
“This new contract means he can develop his career in Scotland and make himself available for national selection.”